This week saw two titanic rulings that will forever cement the Trump-era Supreme Court as the mortal enemy of human rights, civil rights and worker rights. In a sweeping blow to humanistic values, the Court upheld the Trump administration’s travel ban policy targeting mostly Muslim countries and diminished public employee unions’ ability to collect dues to support collective bargaining.
By upholding the travel ban, the Supreme Court has put a lasting legal imprimatur on Trump’s xenophobic/Islamophobic crusade to demonize Muslims as racial and religious others. Unsurprisingly, the right wing (predominantly white evangelical) Christian groups who applauded the Court’s earlier decisions—affirming that so-called crisis pregnancy centers aren’t required to inform clients of abortion and reproductive health care services, and that a Colorado baker can refuse to bake a cake for a same sex couple—remained largely silent on the immorality and religious McCarthyism symbolized by the travel ban.
In another devastating yet widely predicted move, the Court ruled in favor of Mark Janus in Janus vs. AFSCME, which would enshrine “right to work” laws that favor management and corporate control. The Right to Work movement (28 states now have such laws) has been bankrolled by powerful robber barons like the Koch Brothers and the Bradley Foundation. It has origins in white segregationist efforts to drive a wedge between Black and white workers in the South.
As Holly Martins notes in The Daily, the legacy of the movement encompasses the ultra-conservative John Birch Society as well as “the influence of Biblical capitalism, which has long promoted the notion that the Bible endorses free enterprise and abhors socialism. The first executives in the National Association of Manufacturers argued unions were in open warfare against Christianity.”
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By gutting the right of unions to be compensated for collective bargaining and organizing, the Janus decision could reverse decades of gains for American workers. As the wages of corporate CEOs continue to skyrocket over those of rank and file workers, the public sector has become one of the last bastions of security for working class people of color and women of color. For example, Black women are more likely to be employed in public-sector jobs than both white women and Black men, while making 60 cents to the dollar of white men. They also remain one of the most visible groups in public-sector union organizing.
Janus will have long lasting repercussions for the workplace protections, living wage, retirement and child care provisions unions have fought for and successfully won over the past half century. Unions have long been what stood between the unchecked plutocratic profit and greed of American capital and the ability of workers across the spectrum to achieve the so-called American dream. Now, the Right to Work regime and its enablers on the Supreme Court have nakedly institutionalized a Dickensian U.S.